There is nothing shown of unknown assailant or Urahara from the cliffhanger last week, which is rather disappointing. Ichigo also makes a grand total of zero in his progress towards breaking out of Kirge’s jail, which is also disappointing. It’s hard to understand why Kubo decided to continue that plot line at a later date, and I don’t see anything good out of breaking off readers like that and dropping the tension. Instead, we switch back to Soul Society where Byakuya and Renji continue to face off against Äs Nödt, who gets to showcase some of his skills.
The enemy always seems to have the ability to read their opponents minds regarding their abilities before giving a long description on what those abilities actually are. It’s a scene we have seen over and over again and usually takes up most of the chapter. Äs Nödt himself uses several pages to explain his own power as one that can instill “true fear” into his enemies (not an uncommon motif in fiction), and supposedly it is a fear that surpasses the normal fear that warriors feel in battle and cannot be suppressed by reason. Kubo tends to come up with increasingly crazy new powers that are grander or stranger than the last, and often arbitrarily so, but in this case the ability is actually very much in line with Äs Nödt’s nightmarish appearance (look at those eyes). Kudos to Byakuya, who is able to continue attacking and brush off the fear brought on by the thorns, at least initially. For a moment, I thought he might be able to overcome his opponent, but soon he begins to see frightening hallucinations, and one that perhaps reveals his greatest fear. The scenes he witnesses come straight out of a horror film – flesh rotting away, and hordes of bugs creeping up his body and towards his face. I’ll admit I found that stuff pretty horrifying, and no one can blame Byakuya for being momentarily paralyzed. Unfortunately that moment of weakness is enough for Äs Nödt to cut him down with the bankai medallion, leaving his fate to be resolved some other time. Hopefully that won’t be too long, but I’m willing to bet that he’s not going to die.